church crawling

2000 windows by Sasha Ward

On local church crawling trips (which I really prefer to do without a guidebook) you mainly see stained glass windows made either in the nineteenth century or the year 2000. On my last trip across the Wiltshire border and into Berkshire, there were two classic examples of these millenium windows.

Inside St Mary, Kintbury, millenium window by Di Gold to the left of the altar

Inside St Mary, Kintbury, millenium window by Di Gold to the left of the altar

The first is in St Mary Kintbury, a church that is clean and bright and was open on both my visits. The millenium window (above), by an artist I don’t know, is tucked to the left of the altar and partly obscured by something directly behind it in the churchyard. In terms of stained glass, I would call its style naive, with thin paintwork and deliberately wobbly lead lines. You can see what I mean when you compare the figure in it of The Good Woman to the figure of St Peter in a truly accomplished window in the same church by Heaton, Butler & Bayne (below).

(Amusing) comparison of St Peter (H,B&B 1862) & The Good Woman (2000)

(Amusing) comparison of St Peter (H,B&B 1862) & The Good Woman (2000)

In the church are three windows by H,B&B, this one to the right of the entrance door is my favourite. The colour is luminous even through the extensive paintwork, with lovely detail in the sky, water and clothes - there are even drops and stains from the water on St Peter’s robes (click on image below to enlarge).

St Mary, Kintbury with window showing Jesus walking on the water by Heaton, Butler and Bayne (1862)

Inside St Mary’s Hamstead Marshall. Window by Mark Angus (2000) in the nave to the left of the altar.

Inside St Mary’s Hamstead Marshall. Window by Mark Angus (2000) in the nave to the left of the altar.

The second church is in a beautiful spot outside the village of Hamstead Marshall and open on two out of three recent visits. It’s a simple, lovely brick building with a shock of a millenium window at the east end of the nave. This one, again partly obscured by stuff growing outside, is by the instantly identifiable artist Mark Angus. All of the glass is bright, the colour combination is similar to the bottom of my favourite H,B&B window (see below) but unrelieved by any neutral or pale colours. There is some painting and also some screen printing in his literal depiction of the pair of columns that are in the field next to the church.

Left, screen printed detail on column by Mark Angus (what looks white in the photo is really bright yellow). Right, the robes of Jesus by H,B&B.

Left, screen printed detail on column by Mark Angus (what looks white in the photo is really bright yellow). Right, the robes of Jesus by H,B&B.

In the Mark Angus window a bright red X literally marks the spot where Hamstead Marshall sits on a map of the local area. I would call the style of this millenium window typical of the late twentieth century, with disconnected angular lead lines, graphic details and emphatic geometry. Although shocking and incongruous in the church’s interior, I don’t want to be too hard on the composition which is at least bold and may, of course, come back into fashion.

Left, one of several pairs of columns in the adjacent field. Right, another literal Mark Angus detail.

Left, one of several pairs of columns in the adjacent field. Right, another literal Mark Angus detail.

New Favourite Detail by Sasha Ward

Carvings around the doors of St Mary, Chilton Foliat

The new favourite detail is from St. Mary, Chilton Foliat, Wiltshire where there was an open door (what a great latch) and smiles on the faces of the carved figures around it. Opposite the south door, in a two light stained glass window made by James Powell & Sons in 1931, is the lovely little interior scene below, showing the young Mary with her mother Saint Anne.

Lower right hand panel from James Powell & Sons 1931 window

Lower right hand panel from James Powell & Sons 1931 window

The figures are engaging and have just the right amount of illustrative simplicity,  they are set off by a background, with two sizes of chair and a traditional flooring pattern, that is similarly clean and crisp. I kept returning to this window without really knowing why I liked it - it's not my usual type of thing! In this church there are various styles of stained glass in smallish windows and these provide interesting comparisons.

Vision of St. Hubert by John Hayward 1966

Vision of St. Hubert by John Hayward 1966

First there is this John Hayward window from the 1960s, full of wonderful details but, as usual, so messy in its composition. I love the background figures and the shapes on the ground, the feet of St. Hubert and the stag are shown above covered in subtle layers of paint and sgraffito lines. I have always found this painting style depressing, it amounts to covering beautiful transparent coloured glass with a grey film and then scratching it off to let tiny bits of light through - the opposite of crisp and simple lines.

St Cecilia, designed by A.E. Buss, made by Goddard & Gibbs in 1976

St Cecilia, designed by A.E. Buss, made by Goddard & Gibbs in 1976

I have included this little St Cecilia window for nostalgic reasons as she looks so 1970s which is when I started making stained glass. But I also find her a bit sentimental - like the little landscape beside her. I hope that's the cottage that Fred, Nellie, Lionel & Elsie lived in, I like the confident way the scene is painted, going across the coloured borders of the glass.

Blessed Virgin Mary & Baby Jesus by Bell & Beckham 1872

Blessed Virgin Mary & Baby Jesus by Bell & Beckham 1872

We looked at this window for a long time, there's a lot to enjoy in the beautiful rich colours and the ornate pattern making. The inscription below, the canopy above, the background and border patterns all work well together. But the figures with their fixed expressions don't have the charm of those in my new favourite detail.

Window by Thomas Willement 1844, with memorial to Francis Hugh Leyborne Popham, aged 5 months

Window by Thomas Willement 1844, with memorial to Francis Hugh Leyborne Popham, aged 5 months

Two pairs of windows are made of translucent glass with stencilled oak tree details and red borders, two others have the same vibrant red background and a pattern of vines. Here are two good examples of patterned botanical windows. When seen together, they really enhance the space and provide a wonderful backdrop to the memorials in the church. But it's harder to do a good stained glass window with figurative subject matter as the other windows by Thomas Willement in this church - too ghastly even to photograph - demonstrate.

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St Luke & BVM in St Michael, Shalbourne 1995

St Luke & BVM in St Michael, Shalbourne 1995

On the way home we stopped at Shalbourne to see this window made in 1995 by Hanry Haig to Karl Parson's design. I knew I wasn't going to like it as I'd seen illustrations of the really floppy and weak-featured BVM in my guide book. It provides more food for thought - how difficult it is to get the figures right. As you would expect from these two artists there are some fabulous details in the painting, texture and use of subtle glass, and the way the emblems (St Luke's bull shown above) fit in to the overall composition.

Faces and Fragments by Sasha Ward

I was travelling through Oxfordshire, "church crawling" as I believe it's called, when I drove straight past the wonderful sight of one set of stained glass windows visible through the other. Unusually this church, St James' Aston, was open, empty and very light inside, with a coordinated set of patterned windows and a few commemorative figurative ones that I ignored. 

St. James, Aston, West Oxfordshire

St. James, Aston, West Oxfordshire

The even light of a dull summer's day was perfect for viewing and photographing the stained glass. There are 18 of these lancet windows with up to three medallions of coloured glass, crazy patchwork style, in each with a dedication below. I have always loved this way of making stained glass, it's as fun to look at as it is to make, with unexpected juxtapositions and colour combinations. These fragments don't look that old and could some of them have been made especially for the scrap box (cheating in my book)? The latest date on a dedication panel is 1970, that's all I've been able to find out about the windows so far.

Inside the nave, plain apart from glass medallions, kneelers & pews - all very attractive.

Inside the nave, plain apart from glass medallions, kneelers & pews - all very attractive.

These top two ovals are my favourites; like many of the ones shown here the medallion is centred around a face, expressive, poignant or sliced down the middle. I really admire the compositional skill of the artist who put these together, I stayed for ages gazing up at them. Scroll down for more photos, all of them are from the eight nave windows, and as usual, click on an image to enlarge.